Directed by Lars von Trier
Starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg
Runtime 136 min. - Rated R
4 Stars (out of 4)
Roger Ebert recently predicted that Melancholia would not get an Oscar nomination for best picture. He gave it a glowing review but doesn't think it will receive enough votes for a nomination. If that prediction proves true, the Academy Awards should be ashamed. His other prediction was that Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes would get a nomination for best picture. That would only further tarnish the reputation of this year's award in my mind. I actually liked the Apes but it doesn't belong in the elite category.
Lars von Trier's Melancholia is elite. I've seen most of 2011's award-worthy films. The noteworthy exception would be the silent film "The Artist". So with that disclosure I can say Melancholia is not only the best film I've seen in 2011, but possibly the best film of the millennium so far. Without doubt, it's one of the greatest films of all time.
If you're familiar with Lars von Trier then you know he's a master of imagery. His use of imagery in this film is less graphic than he's known for, but profoundly moving. A young beautiful woman fighting depression sneaks out at night. She lays naked on the hillside softly illuminated by the monstrous planet threatening to end the world. The image is seductive not only because of Kirsten Dunst's physical beauty, but because of the director's mastery of lighting and posing.
Melancholia is a sci-fi film, but its strength is in drama. The film is more about life than death. It's about overcoming tribulations and facing your destiny. When faced with the apocalypse, one character chooses to overdose on sleeping pills, but others choose to live the best they know how until they simply can't anymore.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Keifer Sutherland are widely considered great actors and they perform with greatness in this film. Kirsten Dunst is a beloved actress, but I think she showed a range in Melancholia that many people didn't know she possessed. Her character has long bouts of depression and she portrays them perfectly. Even when she smiles you can tell it's to mask something darker.
There is a lot of hand-held camera work throughout the film. I'm not typically a fan of that style, but it doesn't really distract the viewer too much in this case. A still camera is used for some of the lingering shots that feel more like paintings. The special effects are great too. Unlike some directors, Lars von Trier knows when to use his budget. The final scene of the movie literally had me shaking. My heart raced and my breathing shallowed. It's been a long time since a movie held that kind of influence over my biology.
I'm not recommending Melancholia. I'm just saying that you can not be a legit fan of cinema without seeing this masterpiece.